PVM Human-Animal Bond Experts Quoted in Time Magazine

June 23, 2017

A recent Time magazine story headlined, "Science Says Your Pet Is Good for Your Mental Health," quoted two Purdue Veterinary Medicine faculty members: Dr. Alan Beck, director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond and the Dorothy N. McAllister Professor of Animal Ecology; and Dr. Maggie O'Haire, assistant professor of human-animal interaction. Both are in the Department of Comparative Pathobiology.

The April 6 story by writer Mandy Oaklander points out known health benefits associated with having a pet, such as lower blood pressure, heart rate and heart-disease risk. But the article goes on to emphasize how scientists now are finding evidence that animals also can help improve mental health, noting that pet therapy as an animal assisted intervention used alongside conventional medicine is on the rise. "It used to be one of the great no-no's to think of an animal in a hospital," Dr. Beck is quoted as saying. "Now, I don't know of any major children's hospital that doesn't have at least some kind of animal program."

The article acknowledges that more research is needed, but states that published studies show that pets "…have a place in medicine and in mental well-being," and again quotes Dr. Beck as saying, "The data is strong. If you look at what animals do for people and how we interact with them, it's not surprising at all."

The writer then cites several studies of different animal species and their effects on human health. In a reference to a study led by Dr. O'Haire involving guinea pigs and children with autism, the article quotes Dr. O'Haire as saying that animals make socializing easier for kids who find it stressful, and points out how the study showed that when children with autism had a guinea pig in the classroom, they were more social with their peers, smiled and laughed more, and showed fewer signs of stress.

The story also referenced a study about the value of fish by Dr. Beck and Dr. Nancy Edwards, Purdue associate professor of nursing (PDF), which found that when people at an Alzheimer's disease facility dined in front of aquariums with brightly colored fish, they ate more, got better nutrition, and were less prone to pacing. They were also more attentive and less lethargic.

Click here to view the entire Time magazine article online.

Writer: Kevin Doerr, pvmnews@purdue.edu

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